Twitter Yes; Ban, No
It is a fair point that many do not use Twitter, or struggle to see the point of it. The same could be said of any form of social media, but the fact is, like it or not, social media is now firmly established as a form of communication. I have said before Cornwall Council has in many cases been a leader in pushing new frontiers of using social media to conduct council business.
A few weeks ago, the Leader of Cornwall Council and by his own words ‘mischievous pleasure in highlighting the way Twitter was being misused’ (the misuse is subjective because of who rules what is misuse or not) banned the use of Twitter, and other forms of social media at the Cabinet meeting. Many, including myself, said the leader could not do this, and the ‘new’ media policy did not cover the use of Twitter, or more importantly, Councillors.
Out of this fallout the extremely experienced Monitoring Officer was asked to look into the use of social media by Councillors in meetings. A week or so later, a ruling was made and is as follows:
“I have reviewed the position and although the issue is arguable, I am satisfied that, on balance, the Code (new media policy) does not apply to such activities and Members do not require prior approval.”
So there you have it, the knee-jerk reaction by the Leader was in fact wrong. I am not saying this now gives anyone a free-for-all to say what you like because Councillors are still governed by the Code of Conduct. I believe this set of rules clearly sets out what is acceptable or not.
However, this is not the end of the matter, it seems a report will be coming to full council meeting in March to see if ‘another’ set of rules is made up for the use of social media in meetings. As I have said before, Councillors already have a set of rules, so why another level of bureaucracy? The real danger is the use of social media could be further curtailed by people who do not understand how social media works, and still think the world is flat.
Let’s hope this is not the case, and people will see the sensible use of social media plays an important part in democracy and authorities being open and transparent in their business.